Chingola, Zambia — 05 April 2013 – Konkola Copper Mines plc “’ the Zambian unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources plc “’ will transport copper from its Chingola mines to Tanzania by rail instead of road for the first time in five years in order to lower costs.

Thed company plans to ship 70,000 metric tonnes of the metal using trains by March next year, said spokeswoman Joy Sata in an interview with Bloomberg News. The company plans to move the majority of its copper by rail eventually, she added.

“The cost savings will be huge,” Sata said. “It will reduce the transport cost tremendously.”

Railway operators in Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, plan to invest over US$1.5 billion over the next five years to upgrade the system that President Michael Sata said had “deteriorated beyond description.” The government plans to move freight back onto the railways to ease traffic congestion and reduce maintenance costs of the road network.

KCM, as the company is called, transports 70% of its copper by truck from Chingola to Kapiri Mposhi, about 210km away, Sata explained. The metal is then transported by rail to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, about 1,400km northeast, she said.

The remaining 30 percent of the company’s copper production is exported almost 2,500km by road to the port of Durban in South Africa.

KCM, in which Vedanta has a 79% stake, plans to start copper production from two new open pits in Chingola by the end of the year, mineral resources manager Ashok Singh said in an interview. The company is also increasing underground production there, in an expansion that will raise copper output to about 200,000tpa from its mines in Chingola, he added. This will cost US$200 million to $300 million, he revealed.

KCM is also completing a deepening of its underground mine in Chililabombwe, about 21km north of Chingola, which will increase copper production at the operation to about  200,000tpa.  The mine extends 1,505m below surface, making it one of Africa’s deepest copper operations, according to the company. It is also one of the wettest, and has to pump out 320,000 cu m of water daily, equal to about 128 Olympic swimming pools, according to a manager at the mine.

Source: Bloomberg News. For more information, click here.